Janet Jenkins, left, and Lisa Miller (HamptonRoads.com)
Arguments have been scheduled in the Virginia Supreme Court in a case in which a lesbian is demanding to exercise parental rights over the 6-year-old daughter of a Christian woman.
The case could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court where a ruling could determine whether states can set up same-sex “marriage” provisions, and then demand that other states follow their precedents.
The case, scheduled for oral arguments Thursday morning, is being argued by Mathew Staver, chief of Liberty Counsel, on behalf of Lisa Miller, a woman who left a lesbian relationship to become a Christian, and her now-6-year-old daughter.
The other part of the now-terminated relationship, Janet Jenkins, has alleged that because of Miller’s Christian parenting practices, she no longer is a fit mother.
That argument already has been adopted by the Vermont Supreme Court in a decision supportive of that state’s same-sex “union” provisions, but Miller and her daughter live in Virginia, and Miller has gone to the state’s highest court defending her right to adopt Christian parenting principles.
“This hearing will determine whether a lesbian woman who is Lisa Miller’s former partner will share custody of Isabella, Lisa’s daughter,” wrote Matt Barber, policy director for cultural issues at Concerned Women for America. “The woman is neither an adoptive parent nor is she biologically related to Isabella. In fact, she’s a total stranger to the little girl.
“Isabella, who is now 6 years old, hadn’t seen this woman since she was 17 months old. This case could have national ramifications and will help decide whether states like Vermont and Massachusetts get to export their radical new definitions of marriage and family around the country,” Barber said.
WND reported earlier when a lower court in Virginia ceded authority to the Vermont Supreme Court, which opined that it alone has jurisdiction over the child custody battle because the pair lived together briefly in Vermont. That ruling came even though Miller gave birth in Virginia through artificial insemination, her daughter was born in Virginia and that’s where the mother and daughter now live.
That ruling, “tramples on parental rights and state sovereignty,” Staver commented earlier.
He noted Virginia law refuses to recognize same-sex marriage or civil unions, and the under federal Defense of Marriage Act, Vermont does not have the right to impose its same-sex union policy on Virginia.
The two women were living in Virginia in 2000 when they went to Vermont to get a “civil union.” Miller later gave birth to a girl through artificial insemination, but the child was not adopted by Jenkins.
The relationship ended when Miller became a Christian and claimed Jenkins was abusive. Miller, who says she no longer is a lesbian, lives with her daughter in Virginia.
Lower courts in Virginia have ruled Miller is the sole parent and the Virginia Marriage Affirmation Act bars recognition of civil unions. The Vermont Supreme Court, however, reached across state lines to demand that Miller allow Jenkins visitation, and Virginia’s lower courts agreed to that.
Liberty Counsel characterized the case as a “precedent-setting legal battle between Virginia and Vermont over same-sex unions and the rights of fit, biological parents against unrelated third parties.”
“This case is important for the nation to ensure that states remain sovereign regarding the essence of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. This case is important for children to guarantee that one state cannot undermine another state’s support for the traditional family. The case is exceptionally important for Lisa Miller and the future of her six-year-old daughter,” Staver said.
Barber noted Miller’s own account reveals emotional problems triggered by abandonment by her father, abuse from her mentally ill mother and a decade-long war with alcohol led her into the lesbian lifestyle. In 1999, the relationship with Jenkins was begun and on a weekend trip, they traveled from Virginia where they lived to Vermont for their “civil union.”
After Isabella was born, Miller and Jenkins moved to Vermont.
But things were unstable and Miller alleged Jenkins was abusive.
“It was a troubled relationship from the beginning,” Miller told “World Magazine,” “The relationship did not improve as Jenkins … grew increasingly bitter and controlling.”
Months later, the relationship ended and Miller and her daughter returned to Virginia.
Then in 2003, Jenkins demanded that the courts in Vermont award her custody of Isabella, instead of leaving her with her mother.
Since the Vermont court’s ruling, Miller and her daughter “now [are] required to make the several hundred mile roundtrip journey from Virginia to Vermont every other week to visit a total stranger [Jenkins] who, according to reports, outrageously forces the confused and traumatized little girl to call her ‘momma,'” Barber said.
“After Lisa ended her relationship with Janet, when Isabella was only 17 months old, Lisa became a born-again Christian. … She has attempted to raise her child according to biblical principles,” said Rena M. Lindevaldsen, a Liberty Counsel attorney representing the Millers.
“According to recent filings by Janet, however, Janet believes that Lisa’s religious beliefs render Lisa incapable of properly parenting Isabella,” she said.
But she said the court ruling will go far beyond the Miller mother and daughter.
“The [Vermont] court has additionally ruled, essentially, that its own judicial authority is superior to that of both Virginia – which defines marriage as existing only between one man and one woman – and the federal government,” she noted.
“Lisa and Isabella’s story tragically demonstrates that it’s all too often children who are ultimately victimized by state-recognized immorality. It’s the children who suffer when adults selfishly depart from God’s intended design for human sexuality and marriage – as reaffirmed by Christ’s teachings in the New Testament – and enter into counterfeit homosexual ‘civil-unions’ or ‘same-sex marriages,'” Barber said.
“Although Lisa and Isabella’s situation is both heartbreaking and unjust, it shouldn’t be at all surprising. In the name of so-called ‘gay rights,’ the militant homosexual lobby has made its position crystal clear. The selfish individual interests of those who define themselves based upon a choice to engage in deviant homosexual behaviors supersede the best interests of everyone else … even children,” Barber said.
If the rulings from the two state supreme courts are at odds, court procedure automatically would advance the dispute to the U.S. Supreme Court.